By: Jacob Stone | Features  | 

Changes to Dining Plan Include Flat Fee

With the new school year, YU’s Department of Dining Services has changed the structure of the cafeteria plans that on-campus students are required to buy. Under the new structure, students enrolled in the dining plans must pay a flat $675 fee per semester to become members of the cafeteria. Members are given discounts between 35 and 40 percent on food items compared to non-members who have not paid the initial membership fee. Purchases at restaurants that participate in the dining plan are not discounted for cafeteria members. The changes affect undergraduate students at both the Wilf and Beren campuses.

Last year, students were given the choice between three tiers of dining programs: A $2000-per-semester plan which included $100 of free funds with the purchase of the plan, a $1750-per-semester plan, and a $1400-per-semester plan.

For undergraduate men in the Spring 2019 semester, approximately 13 percent were enrolled in the most expensive plan, 31 percent were enrolled in the medium plan, and 12 percent were enrolled in the cheapest plan.

The remaining 44 percent of undergraduate men lived off-campus and were enrolled in the $400-per-semester basic plan. These students are not affected by this year’s changes and remain non-members under the new plan structure.

This year, students on both campuses were offered two plans. The “Standard” plan costs $1750 per semester, of which $675 goes towards the membership fee. Of the remaining $1075, $250 is available in “Flex” dollars — formerly known as OMNI funds — which may be spent in participating restaurants. The “Reduced” plan costs $1500 per semester, of which $675 goes towards the membership fee. Of the remaining $825, $150 is available in “Flex” dollars.

Notably, students on the “Reduced” plan this year pay the same $675 enrollment fee to join the cafeteria but have less money to spend on discounted items. This initial membership fee is 45 percent of their total plan price, while a sample of new food prices sent out by the university reveals the average discount to be slightly less than 40 percent per item. Students on this plan who do not add any additional funds will not recoup the initial fee paid for cafeteria membership.

Even students on the “Standard” plan may be negatively affected by the recent changes to the dining plan structure. The initial enrollment fee amounts to 38.5 percent of the “Standard” plan price, but any money spent on purchases at restaurants will not be subject to discounted prices. Thus, if a student on the “Standard” plan were to spend all of her “Flex” money in restaurants, she would not recoup the initial membership fee. She would need to spend approximately $200 of her “Flex” dollars in the cafeteria to break even on the initial membership fee cost.

Students are also able to add money to their accounts throughout the semester. Because the membership fee is a fixed cost and the cafeteria discount applies to all added funds, students who add more money to their plans will receive more value from additional funds spent in the cafeteria if they are members.

Randy Apfelbaum, Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer and one of the administration members that orchestrated the changes, remarked: “The University Operations department has been reviewing many of the YU operations to make them more responsive to student concerns and needs … Several focus groups with students were convened last year on both Wilf and Beren campuses. The student comments were incorporated into the plan, resulting in the current offerings.” Additionally, Apfelbaum commented, “Students will see more options and better service,” while warning that “the non-member prices may fluctuate from last year due to the costs the university pays for food.”

Overall, the changes to the cafeteria pricing structure reward students who spend more money on plans and students who spend money in the cafeteria instead of the restaurants that participate in the dining plan.

Photo Caption: Workers in the cafeteria preparing to serve students.

Photo Credit: The YU Commentator